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Dietribes: Gnocchi For You

beyenbach-dietries-gnocchi
• ”Gnocchi,” a kind of traditional potato dumpling, means “lumps” in Italian (how … appetizing). It can be difficult to pronounce (just ask Katie Couric), but is more or less “gno-key.”

• Everyone loves potato dumplings, including Washington’s elite and Russell Crowe (who liked the gnocchi at the DC restaurant Spezie so much he ordered it for an entire film crew), but apparently Italian priests have had some difficulty with them … at least, according to the definition of the gnocchi-noodle stragolapreti, also known as Priest Stranglers.

• Gnocchi and dumplings will float to the top of the pot when they are ready because of air trapped within the dough, but also because of baking powder, whose alkaline leavening agent reacts with acid from the starch to produce carbon dioxide bubbles. Yummy.

• During Carnival celebrations in Verona, “bacanal del gnoco” has continued since the Middle Ages; each year an old man with a long white beard and a red trumpet sticks a golden fork into a gnocco (the singular form of gnocchi) and rides around on a mule, together with other helpers, giving out candies and packages of gnocchi. It’s like dumping Mardi Gras!

• It may not work this month, but starting March consider adhering to the Argentine tradition of eating gnocchi on the 29th for good luck.

• Substitute your craving for cigarettes with pasta – after the smoking ban in 2003 a NY restaurant, Serafina Sandro, began to offer a menu that flavored dishes with tobacco (including gnocchi)

• Gnocchi can also be used as a weapon: In 1967, helicopters transporting sick and injured soldiers from Vietnam to hospitals in Germany were met by Helmet Wnter, who chased low-flying aircraft away with Bavarian dumplings fired from a homemade cross-bow. The US and West German Air Forces agreed to keep pilots above 1,500 feet when flying over the Munich suburb.

• Don’t be fooled though, the Germans really do love gnocchi. You can even visit the Potato Dumpling Museum in Germany and learn such things as “Erotic Facts about Gnocchi and Dumplings” … if you dare!

• Need more dumplings? Consider making your own Potsticker Girls (how does this sort of thing sell out?)

• From the Department of Veiled Insults: Yeltsin was nicknamed Pelmeni (a small dumpling) by his general staff an apparent reference to his puffy features and tortured articulation. 

• I only discovered what gnocchi was about two years ago – late bloomer! What are some of your favorite ways to eat it, and where have you found the best gnocchi around your town? (unless it’s your grandmother’s kitchen!)

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.


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